Technological Breakthrough in Train Autonomy

Technological Breakthrough in Train Autonomy

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Autonomous trains and trams are stepping stones to full self-driving vehicles, thanks to their defined routes, but retain some of the hardest challenges cars face: knowing when obstacles, people, or vehicles are in their paths. 

Russian Railways seeks to introduce unmanned driving technology, in order to provide an increased level of safety and reliability of transportation. A high-speed electric train, Lastochka, equipped with an unmanned driving system was tested at the experimental ring of the Research Institute of Railway Transport in Moscow. With this move, Russia is joining Germany and China as the leading testbeds for the technology.

The Russian test involved using communication technology between the train and the tracks, technical vision tests, train self-regulation, as well as driving in a remote-controlled mode. 

The technology allows to operate smoothly without human intervention, adhere to timetables, as well as slow down when the train detects any obstacle in the way.

While the train is unmanned, it will still be monitored and controlled by operators through a control center. This enables an operator to transfer the train from automatic control to remote control in cases of emergency, according to

Alongside automation, Russian Railways intend to prioritize cybersecurity, and to do so, it plans to start using quantum technology, in what was entitled a “breakthrough for rail”.

Quantum technology will reportedly make it easier to create secure systems to collect data on the state of infrastructure and transmission systems for control signals. However, the technology is still in its initial stages and further research is required.

Meanwhile, last year Australia’s mining corporation Rio Tinto said that an autonomous rail system that it’s been developing for several years is now entirely operational — an accomplishment the company says makes the system the “world’s largest robot.”